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NEWS | June 1, 2007

Operation FLAGS helps children learn about deployment process

By David DeKunder 12th Flying Training Wing Public Affiars

Families of servicemembers will get to experience what the deployment process is all about when the Airman and Family Readiness Flight hosts Operation Families Learning About Global Support June 8 at 8:30 a.m.

The event, known as Operation FLAGS, is meant to give family members a glimpse into the deployment experience by rotating participants through stations to simulate different phases of deployment. Operation FLAGS is open to all Team Randolph members and their families. Families are encouraged to participate, even if they do not have a family member deployed.

Each child who participates in the event is issued a "war bag," including Operation FLAGS dog tags and an ID card to keep as a souvenir. They will receive a mock mobility folder to take with them through the processing line, which will add to the reality of the experience.

Tech Sgt. Olga Hudson, 340th Flying Training Group personnel technician, is working to help plan this year's event and said the "war bags" are an important part of the experience.

"The items are kid-friendly," said Sergeant Hudson. "The children will learn about the gear their parents must carry with them."

Senior wing leadership will kick off the event and welcome the families, followed by a 12th Security Forces Squadron Military Working Dog demonstration. After the dog demonstration and the "war bag" issue, the groups will split up and head to the different stations.

The first station will be a modified deployment line complete with representatives from mobility, the chapel, military equal opportunity, the medical group, family readiness and military intelligence. The second station will be aircraft on static display on the flight line and the last station will be a weapons display, obstacle course and scavenger hunt set up at the airman and family readiness center. After all of the families have completed the different stations, the entire group meets for refreshments. Jean Lambert, Randolph Youth Center school age coordinator, said children who participate in Operation FLAGS will have a better understanding of why their parent is being deployed and what measures are being put into place to protect their parent.

"Operation FLAGS makes them realize there is a war going on," Ms. Lambert said. "The family readiness center does everything to ensure the parents who are deployed have everything they need for a safe return."

This is the third year that the youth center has been involved in Operation FLAGS. Ms. Lambert said 168 kids from the center will participate in this year's event.

Ms. Lambert said the children look forward to the demonstrations at each station and there is one reminder from the event that is always appreciated by the children.

"Those children cherish those dog tags," she said.

Ms. Lambert said every year she has learned something new from Operation FLAGS.

"It helps me understand what the servicemembers go through when they are deployed," Ms. Lambert said. "We at the youth center learn as much as the kids do."